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Camping Out

Getting ready for sleepaway camp next summer? Start now.

It's July, and a sizable chunk of our town’s under-18 residents are at their summer home-away-from-home: camp. Sleepaway camp is a big part of summer culture here in Fairfield County, but as it becomes bigger and more popular, it becomes harder for parents to navigate. (So many choices! So competitive to get a spot!) That’s why folks like Stacy Fleischman exist— through the company Camp Specialists, where she is the director of business development, she’s like a college counselor for summer camps. If you’ve got school-aged children who haven’t begun the camp-hunt process—or you’re curious what a camp consultant actually does— Stacy shares the answers to frequently asked questions she gets as a camp consultant working with families in Westport and beyond.

Westport Lifestyle: When do parents typically start their camp hunt?
Stacy Fleischman: The best time to start your search is the summer before you plan on sending your child. This way, you and your family can see camp "in action." You can speak with staff and kids, and see what a regular camp day would look like for your child. You will also get a great sense of the tradition, spirit, and overall "feel" of the camp.

WL: What kinds of camps are Westport families typically looking for?
SF: Some families like a full summer, seven-week camp that is co-ed and some like a single sex camp. Some families like a shorter experience with the option to extend, or maybe even a camp that offers two or three-week sessions. As far as location, we speak to families every day that would like to go north to Maine or New Hampshire, or travel to Pennsylvania, the Adirondacks, or the Berkshires. We work with hundreds of camps for this exact reason. Not every camp is for everyone, that's why we are here to help!

WL: What are some of the most popular camps in our area?
SF: Some families in Westport want to go with friends in town and some families would like to have separate “camp friends." We have two Camp Specialists who live in Westport (Melissa Post and Danielle Chiprut) who are specifically trained to help fellow Westport moms and dads!

WL: What should parents (and kids!) be looking for on camp visits?
SF: You should know the tuition, session length, co-ed/single sex, and structured vs. elective camp before you visit. Once on tour at camp, kids may be separated from their parents to experience some camp activities while parents get a tour. Other camps prefer to tour the entire family at once. Be sure to have your questions ready in advance! We also tell our families not to visit more than three or four camps. The camps start to get confusing and the kids start to get tired!

WL: What is something you hear from parents that surprises them about the camp hunt process?
SF: Some parents are shocked to hear that camps book up for the next year by the middle of July. Our advice is to tour early in the summer!

WL: What kinds of families can most benefit from working with a camp specialist?
SF: Our service is completely free. We are a team of former camp directors, people who have been in the camp business for 20+ years, and people who absolutely love camp. We visit tons of camps on a regular basis, and we have calls with camp directors throughout the year to get updated on all of the latest and greatest (such as facility updates and program updates) as well as updates on which camps have spots left in each age group. We make the camp process painless—and even fun!

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Some parents are shocked to hear that camps book up for the next year by the middle of July!